No. 33 and beyond: A Day Two draft primer

191543.jpg

No. 33 and beyond: A Day Two draft primer

By Adam Hart
CSNNE.com

"Can we ever pick a player, Belichick?"

That's an actual, censored text message received Thursday night during the NFL Draft. The Patriots had in fact picked a player -- beanstalk-dweller Nate Solder -- at No. 17 overall, but they also traded out of the 28th spot.

That deal brings added appeal to Day Two with the Patriots receiving No. 56 overall from the Saints to go along with Nos. 33 and 60 -- all second-round picks. So, yes, he will pick a player; probably going to be an active trader, as well.

And, as Bill Belichick told the media, the interest in Day Two's top selection is already hot.

Welcome to the trading post
A first-round run on quarterbacks has not quelled the need among every team interested in a signal-caller. The Bills (34), Bengals (35), Redskins (41, 49), and Raiders (48) might have their eyes on particular passers. Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Ryan Mallett and Ricky Stanzi figure to be second-round targets. The Bills and Bengals can have their pick of the litter, unless Washington or Oakland trades up into New England's spot.

The haul from a deal for the 33rd pick could set up another stacked draft board in 2012; the Patriots currently have two first-round picks next year, acquiring New Orleans' on Day One. The team has until 6 p.m. to value the trade bids against actually drafting a player. And, yes, trading out will spawn more of those text messages. Delightful.

Target practice
No matter how it unfolds at No. 33, the Patriots can add impact players in the second round. Expect the team to somehow move into the coveted 40-50 range. Some names to watch:

Runnings Back:

Ryan Williams - Was flossing an eyebrow ring on stage at the Draft, but that's not something for which he should be judged. He touts good vision and a certain slipperiness, but battled a hamstring injury in 2010.
Kendall Hunter - A smaller guy, but he runs like a firecracker.

Receiver:

Randall Cobb - A do-it-all type of guy who ran for, threw and caught touchdowns at Kentucky. Has a workmanlike attitude which would seemingly fit into the team-first mantra in Foxborough. A special athlete, he's spent time at receiver, unlike 2009 seventh-round pick Julian Edelman.

Torrey Smith - His gait is reminiscent of Randy Moss. His hands? They're decent.

Offensive Line:

There is still a need here because there's no guarantee Logan Mankins will return and Stephen Neal retired. Dan Connolly is penciled in, but some depth would be nice.

John Moffitt - Can play guard or center. Plays with a mean streak, but told Tom E. Curran he needs to improve his pass blocking.

Clint Boling - A guard in the NFL, he would be.
Outside Linebacker:

Allen Bailey - Belichick watched film with Bailey and his teammates at Miami. He's "country strong," but it doesn't always translate to the field. Played linebacker a bit at Miami, but has said he prefers defensive end. Could he play that Willie McGinest-type role? Maybe.

Chris Carter - Played at Fresno State, trained with McGinest, but is relatively little. He puts in the hard work to improve his game and excels at rushing the passer. If the coaching staff wants a player who can corral Mark Sanchez on third down, Carter might be the pick.

Akeem Ayers - Played across UCLA's linebacker corps, but tended to arrive on the tail end of plays. Still, there are some who are smitten over his athleticism.

Defensive Line:

Drake Nevis - He would fit in that Jarvis Green role, playing along the line on third down. Nevis has excellent burst off the snap and can knife into the backfield, but is not considered suitable for the base 3-4.

Defensive Back:

Ras-I Dowling - An injury-plagued season caused his stock to drop. He is a great tackler for a cornerback, and perhaps could be aided by a move to safety in the NFL.

There, that should cover all 32 picks in the second round.

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

patriots_crevon_leblanc_083116.jpg

LeBlanc's ability to play the football could help him earn spot with Patriots

FOXBORO -- Not long after Cre'Von LeBlanc made a hard-to-fathom, one-handed interception in New England's preseason opener against the Saints, Patriots coach Bill Belichick labeled the play "special." Then he delved a little more deeply into LeBlanc's practice performances with the team to that point.

"Day in and day out, he's been pretty consistent for us going all the way back to the spring," Belichick said at the time. "I'd say his instinctiveness, his ability to be around the ball, his anticipation and ability to recognize routes maybe offset some of the testing numbers that aren't elite . . . Knowing how to play -- he has got some of that. He finds the ball. Or the ball finds him. However you want to look at it."

LeBlanc has seen more preseason targets (20) than any other corner in the NFL thus far, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's allowed nine receptions for 95 yards. His percentage of targets caught (45 percent) is the third-best of any corner with at least 15 targets, and he's allowed a quarterback rating of 38.5 when targeted.

The undrafted rookie out of Florida Atlantic has one pass breakup to go along with his eye-popping pick, and his ability to make plays on the football -- something he flashed in one-on-one drills throughout training camp -- is something that may allow him to earn a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

When asked to explain the value of a player who seems to have a knack for finding the football, Belichick said it can be a difficult skill to assess. It may seem, at times, like a player is fortunate to make those kinds of plays at first. But if they happen again, and again, you might just have something.

"It's a valuable skill," Belichick said. "Logan Ryan is another guy that did it in college. He has done it here. Some guys have a real knack for that, other guys not as much. Sometimes it's a little bit acquired, sometimes it's just instinctive.

"The best example I ever had was [former Giants corner] Everson Walls. He didn't technically do hardly anything right from a fundamental standpoint. You would never take another player and say, 'Look, do it the way Everson's doing it. This is the way you would want to do it.' But in the end [he had], I don't know, whatever it was, 56 career interceptions. It was a lot. It was over 50. He did things, but he could find the ball and he had a great instinct for quarterbacks, routes, pattern combinations and so forth. Certainly it wasn't a speed and measurable thing. You would have released him on those measurable. That's whyhe wasn't drafted. But as a football player he's productive.

"When I was in Detroit, Lem Barney . . . same kind of thing. Lem probably had better measurable skills coming out, but at that point he made a lot of plays and he made them on his instinctiveness, ball skills, awareness, etc.

"Ty [Law], I mean Ty was a first-round pick, but Ty had that too. There are a lot of first-round picks that don't have that and he had that.

"It's definitely an important skill, and it really probably separates good from great players or average to good players. It's not the easiest thing to evaluate, and sometimes some of those plays are circumstantial more than they are great instinctive plays. They're fortunate the way they happen. But when a guy starts making enough of them then you know it's something a little special."

Time will tell as to whether or not the Patriots believe LeBlanc has that something special. Final roster cuts are due on Sept. 3. He's been included in our latest 53-man roster projection, but he's competing in what appears to be a deep positional group that includes second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts as well as fellow undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones.

Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17

brady.jpg

Brady to serve as Michigan honorary captain Sept. 17

Tom Brady will have some time on his hands the next couple of weeks. So, why not travel back to the ol’ alma mater to serve as honorary captain.

That’s what the Patriots quarterback will be doing Sept. 17 when Michigan hosts Colorado at the Big House in Ann Arbor.

Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh told the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, another Michigan alum, that Brady will be back in Michigan for the game. 

There has been speculation that Brady will find time to work out with the Wolverines to stay sharp while he’s away from the Patriots serving his four-game Deflategate suspension. His visit with the Wolverines will no doubt fuel more of that talk.